Why Karnataka politics has reached this sad state

KIRAN RAO BATNI writes: The now out-in-the-open fissiparous tendencies  in Karnataka’s BJP government can make anybody question whether State politics in Karnataka can ever rise above corruption, in-fighting, inefficiency, ignorance and mindless stone-throwing.

There are two inter-related reasons for this mess, each reinforcing the other in a vicious cycle: one, the presence of lower-calibre politicians at the State level; and two, the relative unimportance of State-politics due to half-hearted federalism.

The high-decibel noise of empty vessels: A basic problem with the politics of Karnataka is that the politicians themselves are often of too low a calibre—often uneducated, corrupt and ignorant. Such politicians in the Vidhana Soudha repel higher-calibre people (who just can’t match up to their level of corruption to even get elected) and attract even lower-calibre ones.

Not just electoral candidates, but even the general public is repelled from state-level politics because of the bad name which the low-calibre politicians of Karnataka have brought to State-level politics.

Admittedly, State-level politics is more “hands-on” into the dirty mess of casteism and mindless largesses to a population which should ideally be better educated and taught to work instead of expecting those largesses.

Karnataka’s politicians have been unable to solve these issues to anybody’s satisfaction, basically because they lack the necessary grey-cells for doing so. Instead of solving these issues, the inability and ignorance of our politicians makes them exploit the issues to water their own vested interests.

And of course, amidst all the high-decibel noise created by the empty vessels that Karnataka’s politicians are, governance has taken the back-seat. The little that the Karnataka government has control over is also mishandled by our low-calibre politicians.

With this being the performance of Karnataka governments right from 1956, hearing the word “State-politics” mentioned itself has started to become a nauseating experience.

Karnataka should look to Gujarat: True federalism is the right way for India to progress, since New Delhi simply cannot run a country which has more than a billion people if it continues to poke its nose into state-level issues. New Delhi can never understand the importance of Kannada in Karnataka, or the way in which Kannadigas can progress, or what projects need to be undertaken for Karnataka to progress.

For the record, New Delhi does not speak Kannada (there are many in New Delhi who can’t tell if Kannada is a language or a country in North America), and therefore can never run Karnataka to any degree of satisfaction. Nor should it, for that would be not much different from the British ruling Karnataka – a state of slavery where Kannadigas are ruled by non-Kannadigas.

Given this, while the importance of Karnataka’s politics is implicit, the half-hearted federalism in India does not explicitly grant that importance to it.

Over and above this, the nauseating State-politics of Karnataka makes one come to the utterly wrong conclusion that New Delhi is better than Bangalore when it comes to governing Karnataka. That is a disastrous feeling which is doing its rounds in the intelligentsia, and must as such be removed.

While the State-politics of Karnataka is admittedly nauseating, states like Gujarat have retained the sanctity of State-level politics by giving better governance, better utilisation of State funds, encouragement given to investments and business, etc.

Gujarat is not just the media babe of India, but a true example of what good leadership and high-calibre politicians can do to the very image of state-politics and federalism itself.

Today, while Gujarat is an example of a responsible state which further affirms that true federalism is the way to go, Karnataka brings down the case for true federalism because of its irresponsible, corrupt and non-delivering politicians.

It is high time our own politicians grow up, stop being those empty vessels, develop some grey-cells and start delivering like the politicians in Gujarat.

Unimportance waters low-calibre: Why is it that we see less corruption, in-fighting, inefficiency, ignorance and mindless stone-throwing at the central government? Is it that we just don’t get to see similar behavior (when it’s present in reality)? No, it would be wrong to say so.

Admittedly, politicians at the Centre are of a higher-calibre than at the State-level. Why is that?

The main reason is that central politics is of relative higher importance. It’s simply a better job with better challenges with better people around. The most important portfolios are held by the Centre, many of which are nonsensically so held.

For example, the States are left with virtually no revenue to run their states, while the Centre gets a disproportionately large revenue for the little work that it does. One often sees highly productive states beg the Centre for their own rightful share of central budgetary allocations.

Karnataka, perhaps, stands foremost among States which are so cheated.

The presence of lower-calibre politicians at the state level and the relative unimportance of state-politics due to half-hearted federalism have together resulted in a major degradation in the quality ofSstate-politics in Karnataka. Unimportance waters low-calibre, and low-calibre waters unimportance.

The way out of this mess is to have more power to the States and simultaneously for our politicians to grow up.

(An earlier version of this piece was first published in June 2009)

Photograph: The east gate of the seat of power in Karnataka, the Vidhana Soudha in Bangalore, closed on Thursday due to a government holiday (Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: History repeats itself: first as tragedy then as farce

‘BJP has taken Karnataka politics to the bottom’

Gauri Lankesh: Is Karnataka the Gujarat of the South?

How the BJP completely lost the plot in Karnataka

CHURUMURI POLL: India’s most corrupt State?

Getaway of the louts in the Gateway to the South

BJP’s lotus grows in muck, so do BJP’s people

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29 Responses to “Why Karnataka politics has reached this sad state”

  1. Dinkar Says:

    why has the Churumuri omitted the customary mention of Godhra progrom? Pls balance the article!! :)

  2. DailyBread Says:

    Politicians from panchayat to parliament level are the smartest set of people in the country. They just act dumb……

    With the state GDPs crossing US $ 100-150 billion ( some of the states will become half a trillion $ economies by 2020) we will get to see some very talented politicians at state and city corporation’s level.

    What is happening today is a manthan, hang in there….

  3. Mumbai Paused Says:

    Rant alert.

  4. Ramesh Says:

    CM wanted to dissolve assembly in April and hinted it to INDEPENDENT ministers…

  5. Goldstar Says:

    >> Karnataka should look to Gujarat:

    Can’t believe my eyes… Is this really Churumuri or has this site been hacked by the “Internet Hindus”/ Cheddis ?

  6. div Says:

    this old politics with useless guys doesn’t matter. It is the same whether BJP or Congress or JDS heads the government in Karnataka. What is needed is a new kind of politics where good people aren’t scared to enter politics. Loksatta party has the way

  7. vindy Says:

    @ Goldstar, its a decoy to kindle all of our resident intellectuals (read psuedo-secularists)

  8. Bengalooru Haida Says:

    Batuni Anna, Well said. I had a creepy feeling that half-baked Federalism is the real reason behind the greed, incompetence, unaccountability, corruption, nepotism and absolute lack of will or brains to govern amongst our Jewels de Karnataka. Your article vindicates that.

  9. Kiran Rao Batni Says:

    My praise for Gujarat was only for the state’s commitment to economic growth and federalism.

    The state’s commitment to economic growth is widely known, but this post tells you what Gujarat’s chief minister had to say about center-state relations and by implication, federalism.

    For my comments on BJP and RSS, see here and here.

  10. twistleton Says:

    Sudden outpouring of grief?!?!

  11. Narayana Says:

    I fully agree that center should devolve power to states.
    Delhi gives Rs 13000 crores as tax revenue. But gets back Rs 76000 crore in the guise of CWG alone. States give Rs 600000 crores and get back only 150000 crores in return.


    Loksatta is not panacea for all the ills. We already got bitten badly by VP Singh who professed new kind of politics and ditched them once he got to gaddhi.
    So I request you to closely watch Loksatta guys. For a starter I want to know if Loksatta has yearly elections for its president and if they have limit on number of terms for presidency in their party charter. Every party in India kills democracy by nominating its office bearers.

    Coming back to the discussion here. ..
    Question Batni is raising “Is the corruption because of too much centralization?”
    Current federal structure is a relic of English rule and serves to hide the dysfunctional nature of India government.
    India government gets a tax receipt of around 600K crores; It gives 150K crores to states and then it spends rest of 450K crores on the following
    * 150K crores on loans which have been taken.
    * 100K crores on defense both on capital and non capital expense
    * 75K crores on Central government employee salary pension etc.
    * 75K crores on subsidy
    After spending all that it got.. Center then prints money to the tune of 200K crore (Or borrows if the markets give loans) and then blows up that money on junk schemes like Chacha Rojgar. Chacha Urban Renewal and so on.. and now 75K on Common wealth shames. Slowly southern states are losing grip on development because they are being starved of funds. They are also getting marginalized because population growth in north coupled with delimitation is resulting in less representation for south.

    When America had taxation without representation they had Boston Tea Party and ejected British out.

    Southern states need to take a leaf from that part of history and declare independence if this loot by center does not stop.

  12. Decentralizer Says:

    @ Narayana: I agree with you. This loot and accumulation of power by the central govt has to stop. Ever since independence, it has been grabbing more power and is now starving the states. Pouring lakhs of crores into meaningless schemes, Delhi’s infrastructure under various guises is obscene. Decentralize power and downsize central govt to restore true federalism.

  13. BG Subhash Says:

    Karanataks politics has reached a Nataka stage much earlier but now has matured into a full blown Nataka baloon which will blow into the face of karnataka people because of one family ie Father, Sons, Sons in law, Daughters in law ie Deve Gowda & family. This party is basically a fringe player with its base in Hasan, Mysore & Mandya districts. Fringe players in Indian poilitics have always wrecked havoc to Indian polity. JD(S) the fringe player will never be able to get a majority phase in their life because of their support base is only in 2 or 3 districts. This is enough for the party to cobble up the numbers either with the congress or BJP. These two major parties court with this fringe party & the fringe party sucks from the coalition whatever they desire. Perhaps, one can judge from the fact that the one family that rules JD(S)has attained very wealthy status in one generation only! The real Achiless heel or the curse of Karnataka politics is JD(S)

  14. H.R.Bapu Satyanarayana Says:

    The way Tamil Nadu ministers Raja and Balu caused loss to the central exchequer as reported in the media and remain unaccounted under the benign tolerance of the Congress, the corruption money of all the politicians of Karnataka works out to peanuts

  15. Bharath Says:

    I would rather give example of Tamil Nadu, the way the Dravidian Movement kept Tamil Nadu right on top for years when it comes to bargain funds to that state from the centre. More often TN has turned out to be the Kingmakers in the formation of central Government and virtually control the Central Government. TN by definition ensured that Regional parties are in power ( DMK or AIADMK) in the State all the time and kept NewDelhi away from poking its nose in TN.

    So the solution would be that Kannadigas should work towards forming 2 strong Regional parties which would care about Kannada, Kannadiga and Karnataka. That’s the way to go

  16. Narayana Says:

    @Kiran Rao Batni
    Quote from your article
    stop collecting taxes from Gujarat and also stop aid to the state” as “….Gujarat gives Rs 40,000 crore as taxes to the centre and receives only 2.5 per cent of it in return”.

    I find that hard to believe. Probably that figure is around 25% even though 12th finance commission says that figure is around 30.5%.

    I am not sure how you or Modi came up with that 2.5% figure. (I doubt Modi came out with that figure.. may be spin masters erred.. or may be only 2.5% is shared and rest comes as grants.. but I do not think that is the case as per 12th finance commission reports at the finance commission web site) Can we get some sanctity to the figure on percentage o revenue shared by center with Gujarat.

  17. Amar Says:

    A good eye opening article.
    BJP in karnataka, rather the 3 political parties in karnataka today are at the lowest level, once can ever be..

  18. Rohith Says:

    no its not a sudden outpour of grief. if you looked at Kiran’s blog completely, and its chronology of posts, this particular one on Churumuri resembles a summary of Indian governance setup and the mess created by-design. This post BTW is a re-count of long unraveled facts by Banavasi Balaga.

  19. BG Subhash Says:

    I think Karnataks politics has today reached its Nadir. Thanks to JD(S). Look at the audacity of JD(S). Kumaraswamy charters a special plane to goa to court with BJP MLA`s & says he has gone to Goa in a chartered plane to see his friends.Also Mr Cheluraya swamy & Jabeer Ahmed go in a special helicopter along with another Mysore MLA to Goa and then take them further on to chennai to bring them back to Bangalore on Sunday night. All scenes has been witnessed in real time on TV channels. Why is the Karnataka governer the torch bearer of constitution mutely witnessing? Is this not open auction /horse trading by JD(S)?Why does he not say any thing to JD(S) at this very moment? The drama conducted by JD(S) at Goa is really shameful. JD(s) must be censured and party must be debarred from elections. JD(s) has made Karnataka real laughing in India.

    JD(S) is the real curse of Karnataka.

  20. Wise Ants Says:

    Gowda clan of JDS, particularly Kumaraswamy, is the main culprit for degeneration of Karnataka politics. It all started by JDS pulling the carpet under Dharam’s feet and forming a govt. Later it betrayed the BJP by reigning the promise of transfer of power. Prima facie it has cheated two national political parties. The Congress has forgotten the lesson it had learnt after the fall of Dharam govt. It is now directly supporting Kumaraswamy to unplug the BJP govt.

  21. Kiran Rao Batni Says:

    @ Narayana,

    Check this google search

  22. H.R.Bapu Satyanarayana Says:

    Tomorrow is the D-date and all indications are the Governor as the agent of the centre will be the final arbiter of the tussle and Yeddyurappa has no chance either way.

  23. Pulikeshi the Last Says:

    The two parties, the Congress and the JDS, are getting ready to form another government together. S. M. Krishna led the vokkaliga era, with a Kuvempu nagara in every town. Yediyurappa has given the Lingayath saffron saints all the money they dreamt of. Now the Kuruba yuga under Siddharaamayya is about to begin. Jaathi is namma devaru.

    Is this the best that can happen to us?

  24. BB@B Says:


    If Central Govt. return 100% of revenue generated by every state, who will take care of Defense Forces, National Highways, Reserve Forces and in-numerable central funded schemes. There is no fault with the current system, the fault is with the people responsible for implementing it. Center does not belong to any particular state, it has people from all across India. On a similar note, why should fund generated by Bengaluru ( ~90% of state reveune) be spent in any place other than Bengaluru. Also, what does people from South Karnataka know about North Karnataka and Coastal Karnataka.

    TN, Gujrat, Punjab and now Bihar have strong state level leaders and results are there for everyone to verify.

  25. Narayana Says:


    My life has taught me to be circumspect when someone starts making allegations without data. Google can not substitute for data. It is based on page rank and not on rationality. Higher the noise, higher is the Google rank. My request for you is to base discussions on data and not on rants.

    Your figure seemed highly suspect because 12 finance commission stipulates that 30.5% of all the revenues earned by central government need to be shared with states. That figure itself is very low as per my observation and our elected representatives at state levels have to make effort to increase that to beyond 50%. But that is entirely different discussion.

    Coming back to your assertion that Gujarat government gets only 2.5% of its revenues back to the state, I did some analysis based on public data. ( available at Finance commission and finance ministry web sites) When I get a chance I will publish it in my blog.
    Meanwhile this is the gist of my observation.. All the data was obtained from the source of the data 12th finance commission so this is pure data with no bias.
    India government get 600K crore in revenue. It shares 150K crore with states. 30.5% share finance commission is advising is not on per state basis but it is enforced overall. Earlier , it totally depended on the bullying power of state representatives to get higher share for their states. (In 90’s Laloo Yadav literally looted all of the state funds and diverted most of it to Bihar) However now we have per state share..Which is close to 3% for Gujarat and 4.3% for Karnataka.. This may the share you are referring to.. This 3% is not 3% of Gujarath’s share. It is 3% of all the states’ share.
    It roughly corresponds to Rs 4500 Crore for Gujarat. So actual % of funds that come back to Gujarat is slightly more than 10% of the revenue it collects for central government.
    In absolute terms southern states are giving away much of their revenues to states like Bihar which are freeloaders in Indian union. Bihar collects around 8000 crore in tax but gets back nearly 20000 crore as its share.. Karnataka sends to Delhi upwards of 60000 crore as tax and gets back 6000 crore as its share.
    So you have a strong point when you say southern states are getting looted but Gujarat getting back only 2.5% of its collection is not correct. It is slightly more than 10% as data shows. Please correct your blog post.

    BTW, I have very high regard more Modi because he seems to be very methodical in the administration. He would not have made false and baseless allegation as is wont with Chachawadis. I digged further on how this 2.5% got invented.. Here is the exact report that talked of this.
    At a function in Vadodara on Sunday, Modi had said that the Centre collects around Rs 40,000 crore by way of taxes from Gujarat, but gives only 2.5 per cent of central funds to the state.

    That was what Modi had said in Vadodara on June 8th 2008(Refer any newspapers on Jun 9th 2008. ( I accessed archives of newspapers to get exact quote– I can not share with my credentials for Proquest newspaper archives). Refer the reports on that function to understand Modi said 2.5% percent of central funds and not 2.5% of Gujarat’s revenues. So Modi was right ( as he has always been) but some how spin masters changed that figure to 2.5% of gujarat’s revenue!!!

    So moral of the story so far.
    1. Southern states are getting looted by Delhi.
    2. Modi was correct about 2.5% in his original statement but spin masters have changed it to make it look even more horrible than 10% share progressive states are getting to Delhi’s kitty.
    3. Google does not substitute for rational..


  26. ksuhasu Says:

    Hey! I stumbled upon this page after reading a few articles on what’s happening with the political situation of Karnataka. Its a very well presented article; the present state of politics is SO nauseating… i’m here 8000 miles away from home in the US and the stench is enough to drive me into unconsciousness. Modi… inspite of all his unabashedness and arrogance is still a leader of high calibre and he has truly lead Gujarat to great development. But every political party in Karnataka has become so cheap that the future looks frighteningly dark for us. Are there any positives at all?

  27. Harish Says:

    Karnataka pays the highest taxes to the Central Government in India. But at the same time it is least favoured by the Central Government. Most people do not know this. Karnatak has also replaced Madhya Pradesh in the BIMARU states and this acronym has been changed to BIKARU states. This fact is also not very much known to kannadigas

  28. vivek Says:

    BJP Ministers in Karnataka are Rakshas of Lanka

  29. Suraj.jamadagni Says:

    This is stage of NO RETURN,now karnataka should be ruled by youth and therefore we can get timely relief..


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